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Efforts to Distribute Emergency Rental Assistance Ramp Up

As reflected in numerous media reports, grantees that received federal emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds have been remarkably slow to distribute their allocations through state and local programs. These delays are causing palpable frustration among housing providers and renters alike who are in desperate need of financial support to stay afloat.

The U.S. Department of Treasury (USDT) notes that the first tranche of federal money (ERA1), which totaled $25 billion, was disbursed to state and local program administrators by February 10, 2021. Yet according to USDT’s interim compliance report which includes program data from January through May 2021, state and local grantees only distributed approximately $1.5 billion in assistance for rent, overdue payments and utilities as of May 31. While grantees did serve over 160,000 households during the reporting period, more must be done to get ERA funds out urgently and efficiently.

USDT’s continued campaign to urge grantees to adopt proven best practices from the most successful programs and provide technical assistance has resulted in promising progress. In USDT’s monthly compliance report for the month of June, state and local grantees reported delivery of more than $1.5 billion in assistance to eligible households, amounting to more assistance in one single month than what was provided in all three previous reporting periods combined.

Of note, USDT’s performance report showed Texas, Massachusetts, and Virginia operate the most efficient state-level programs, distributing over $786.9M in six months. While there are a number of efficient programs, some grantees are still struggling to get their programs to a functioning state. New York and South Carolina, for instance, have yet to distribute any ERA funds, as well as Seattle/King County in Washington.

As the July 31 expiration of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) federal eviction moratorium neared, the Biden Administration increased pressure on grantees to expedite application processing and payment delivery. While the CDC did extend a revised version of its eviction order through October 3, state and local program administrators continue to feel that sense of urgency to distribute federal aid.

It is crucial that state and local grantees distribute ERA as quickly as possible to help take the pressure off of housing providers who have been carrying the financial burden of the pandemic alone for more than a year. The National Apartment Association (NAA) continues its advocacy efforts to ensure that policymakers focus on effective and efficient distribution of ERA and urge changes to ERA programs to encourage housing provider participation. Extensions of eviction moratoriums are not the right policy solution for the pandemic.  

To learn more about rental assistance programs in your area, visit the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) newly launched resource, the Rental Assistance Finder, designed for renters and housing providers. We encourage members of the rental housing industry to use the tool and share it widely with residents.

If you have any questions regarding ERA, please contact Jodie Applewhite at [email protected].